At least eight Los Angeles police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, including two of the department’s most senior command staff, as concerns about first responders’ increased risk of getting sick grow nationwide.
The number of LAPD officers testing positive has increased in the last few days as the department ramped up testing of those exhibiting symptoms.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, eight police officers and one civilian employee had tested positive for the virus, the department said in a statement.
“The Department has strict protocols for any employee who experiences symptoms of the virus. They are instructed to go home and their work spaces are sanitized,” the statement read. “The health and safety of our men and women continue to be our top priority and we will make every effort to test individuals experiencing symptoms.”
At least 14 officers have been tested for the virus, and the number of confirmed cases within the country’s second largest law enforcement agency is expected to increase, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter candidly.
Two of the highest ranking officials in the LAPD are among those who have tested positive, those officials said. A Pacific Division supervisor was the first to contract the virus in the department and had to be hospitalized, the department said last Sunday.
More than 160 police officers across the U.S. have become infected by the coronavirus. Nearly 100 of those cases involve the New York City Police Department. Locally, officers with the Los Angeles Airport and San Jose police departments have also fallen ill.
The coronavirus has proved unavoidable for first responders in recent weeks and could change the way law enforcement officials will operate for months. Arrests made by the LAPD and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department have dropped significantly as the virus has spread, and both departments have ordered officers and deputies to cite and release people whenever possible for low-level offenses.
The county’s courthouses also closed for several days, and jury trials have been suspended for a month in the hopes of limiting the spread of the illness.
The LAPD is slated to receive thousands of additional protective N-95 masks for its officers to help them cope with potential contact with infected members of the public.
Some officers have expressed frustration with commanders in the LAPD’s Central Division after sources told The Times that an officer who later tested positive for the virus was exhibiting symptoms at work for two days before being sent home.
The officer, who had recently returned from a vacation out of the country, was “coughing and sweating” during roll call in Central Division, which patrols areas that include downtown L.A., sources said.
It was not immediately clear if the officer went out on calls or otherwise interacted with the public. In a statement, the LAPD said the officer was sent home once supervisors became aware he was sick.
An officer who worked with the Central Division officer who tested positive is also now being checked to see if he contracted the illness, an official said.
“With our men and women on the front lines of this crisis, providing critical services to our city, we recognize more employees may contract coronavirus,” the department said in a statement Saturday. “We will continue to ensure all facilities are clean and safe while tending to the well-being of our team.”
The department is expected to place its officers on 12-hour shifts in the coming weeks and cancel all vacations as a way to beef up staffing in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a law enforcement source said.
The department is also planning to assign officers to each of the city’s new emergency shelters, which are expected to grow in number, according to the source familiar with the plans who was unable to speak publicly about them.
The plans are still being finalized but are part of a larger effort by the LAPD to mobilize and be of assistance during the public health crisis.